Law & Order: SVU: Rockabye

Saturday 29th August 10.15pm

The seventh season of the ‘Law & Order’ spin-off following New York’s elite special victims unit continues. This week, a pregnant 16-year-old girl is beaten so badly that she loses her baby. An early suspect emerges in the form of the victim’s teenage boyfriend, but the case is complicated when forensic evidence proves that the girl was complicit in her own attack.

Detectives are called to a hotel where a 16-year-old girl calling herself Jane Smith has been badly beaten with a table lamp. The girl is taken to hospital, but flees after her examination. It emerges that the victim’s real name is Lauren Westley, a schoolgirl from Virginia who had been staying in New York for two weeks. Lauren’s controlling father informs the cops that his daughter made a ‘golden promise’ – a pledge to abstain from sex until marriage. However, blood tests taken at the hospital reveal that Lauren is pregnant, while phone records from the hotel show she had been calling an abortion clinic. “Why would somebody come all the way to New York for an abortion?” asks Cragen. “Because Virginia law requires teens to get parental consent before they terminate a pregnancy,” replies Benson.

When Lauren is found, her condition has worsened and she is rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. The girl’s life is saved, but her baby is stillborn. Security footage from the car park where Lauren was found shows her in the company of a lad from her school called Wayne. When Lauren’s father hears of Wayne’s apparent involvement, he is convinced his daughter was raped. “Mr Westley, you’ve got to start considering the possibility that Lauren had consensual sex,” advises Stabler.

Upon regaining consciousness, Lauren confirms that Wayne was the father of her unborn child and explains that she and he came to New York to get a termination. When the clinic informed Lauren that her pregnancy was too advanced for an abortion, Lauren adds, Wayne got angry and beat her about the abdomen in an attempt to kill the foetus. The lad is promptly arrested.

Once in custody, Wayne confesses to the attack, prompting his lawyer to request a meeting with ADA Novak. “He’s a decent kid who got caught up in a terrible situation and panicked,” he says of his client. “He was calm enough to remove the bulb and the shade from the lamp before he used it to batter his girlfriend,” says Benson. Novak ignores the attorney’s request for a misdemeanour charge based on “extreme emotional distress” and insists Wayne will be charged with first-degree assault. “And if the autopsy proves that the baby took a single breath outside the womb, I will charge him with murder,” she spits.

The case takes an unexpected twist when forensic evidence suggests that Lauren was complicit in her own attack. Along with the bruises on her abdomen made by the lamp are a number of marks made by her own fists. Sure enough, a distraught Lauren admits that she returned from the abortion clinic and convinced her boyfriend to help her get rid of the baby. Wayne corroborates the shocking story.

Defence lawyer Sophie Devere takes on Wayne’s case and argues that her client and Lauren should be treated leniently and equally in the eyes of the law. “Casey, they’re kids,” she says. “They’re not in control of their actions.” But Novak is insistent that they will both be charged – even if that means Wayne will face prison while Lauren is likely to escape with probation. “They made a plan and they executed it,” she says.

However, Novak finds herself in a moral dilemma when it emerges that the abortion clinic is a fake organisation, set up by pro-life fanatics. Lauren and Wayne had attempted to make a number of appointments for a termination, only to be put off until it was too late. Can Novak bring charges against the desperate youngsters knowing that they did all they could to abort the pregnancy legally?

About the author

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1